US Optics made their name by building the equivalent of hand made custom scopes that were built to order. They eventually ended up with the contract to build and maintain the Unertl USMC 10x scopes used on the M40A1 sniper rifles and for the most part they built a good quality scope. The company was eventually purchased and moved several times to different locations. In fact, for a short period, less than a year, they were even located here in Montana and we visited their factory. But with new owners comes new expectations of sales and revenue and so they have changed from the boutique scope maker to now being a more traditional scope maker with an expanded line of scopes to appeal to a broader market. Part of that expanded lineup is a lower priced series of scopes known as the TS to draw in more of the main stream customer base. The scope we have for review here is from that line of scopes, the TS-12X.
Perhaps the first thing one notices when receiving the box, is that the scope, and its box, are small. The TS-12 takes the term compact to a new level. In fact, at less than 10″ long, it is the size that one normally attributes to being placed on an AR/MSR style rifle. But the scope has all the typical features found on full sniper style scope. We feared this extra short size may pose some mounting problems on long action rifles if they do not use a single piece base. But we’ll discuss that in a bit. The scope also comes with an instruction manual, a sticker, lens cleaning cloth, and an inspection check list that is filled out by hand and even initialed and dated by the person inspecting the scope.
This scope offers a lot of features including side focus, 30mm tube, locking turrets and a FFP reticle, all for a very reasonable price. Unfortunately, that is usually a recipe for the dreaded ‘made in China’ label so that was the first thing we looked for upon opening the box. Unfortunately, we found it. They are careful not to put the label on the scope itself, but because it is law, the country of origin must be provided, and it is on the box. We try not to be biased, but a vast majority of Chinese made scopes are very low quality, and only one or two of them that we have reviewed have scored above a 1 star. We are the first to admit that knowing a scope is made in China automatically puts it on an uphill battle to win our favor. Unfortunately that is just the reality based on experience. We will do our best to remain objective and open minded, but this scope will have to perform well to earn our respect. Additionally, it just doesn’t sit well with us that a company that is called US Optics is selling Chinese made OEM scopes.
We start our inspection of the scope at the ocular lens side where a fast focus eyepiece is located. There are some slight serrations on the eyepiece that provides a bit of grip, but not much is needed as the eyepiece adjusts with just a light amount of force. The adjustment is smooth through the entire range and it covers the full diopter adjustment range in about 1.1 rotations. There is a small indicator dot that can be seen if looked for closely. The diopter range appears to be sufficient for most shooters.
Like the rest of the scope, the eyepiece housing is short with some basic USO markings on either side and a +0- marking on top to indicate the directions for the diopter adjustment. Located in front of the eyepiece is the zoom adjustment ring. It is a slightly larger diameter than the eyepiece and again there is some mild groves machined in the ring to help with grip. Here, the help is needed as the zoom ring is moderately stiff and does require a good amount of grip to be able to turn it. The surface on which the small font numbers are printed is canted toward the shooter to make it easier to see what power the scope is set on from behind the scope. The full 3-12x range is covered in just a bit less than half of a rotation
In front of the zoom adjustment ring, there is only 1.2″ of tube length for which to locate the rear scope mounting ring. The tube is 30mm diameter which affords some extra room for more adjustment adjustment range. The scope tube then transitions into the shoulder area with a flat surface that blends into a rounded area where the control knobs are all located.
Located on top is the elevation turret which is an exposed turret design like nearly all tactical scopes are today. It is not overly large and the top half of the knob is a larger diameter with serrations. The adjustments on this scope are MILs, which matches the reticle, and each click represents .1 MIL. There is only a single level of markings that runs from 0 to 6 providing enough elevation for a .308 shooting 175gr Match ammo to get from 100 yards to about 700 yards in a single rotation, but then the shooter will have to pay careful attention to where they are located once the dial overlaps after that one rotation. This is because there are no horizontal indicator marks to help keep track of how many rotations the knob has been turned. There is also no zero stop on the scope.
To actually turn the knob, you need to pull it up out of the locked position, and then the knob can be adjusted. Once it has been moved, just popping it back down will lock it. The clicks themselves are only okay. They have a slight muted click that is not well defined, but there is not an excessive amount of play between those clicks, which usually comes hand-in-hand with less prominent clicks. The factory indicates 30 MIL of elevation adjustment and our test scope had 30.2. This equates to over 100 MOA of travel which is a large amount and should be plenty for most shooting scenarios one would encounter with a 12x scope.
The windage knob, located on the right hand side of the scope, is the same size and shape as the elevation knob. It too has the same locking turret feature and the same 6 MILs of adjustment per rotation. The knob also counts up in both directions with the overlap obviously happening at 3 MIL. This provides enough adjustments for shooting a .308 in a 10mph crosswind out to over 1000 yards before that overlap happens at 3 MIL. The clicks also feel the same as the elevation knob.
The side parallax focus knob is on the left hand side of the scope and is almost the exact size and shape as the windage and elevation knob, but has less serrations on the top. The amount of force to turn the knob is probably above average, but not too stiff and while not as smooth as others, its still acceptable. The interesting thing with the knob is that it appears to be calibrated for the wrong type of shooting that we would consider the scope designed for. With 12x of magnification, that gives a tactical rifle enough power to shoot beyond 1000 yards but the focus adjustment is calibrated to be effective at much lower ranges.
The knob has indicator marks from 10 to 200 only, and then one final infinity marking. And the distance between the 100, 200 and infinity marks is tiny, making the ability to fine tune the focus at further distances extremely difficult and not as precise as one needs to dial out parallax. And then down at the lower end, the knob actually adjusts to well below 10 yards and in fact, we were able to focus the scope on objects that were only about 5 yards away. Not too many sniper rifles are intended for 5 yard shots. The full focus range is covered in about half of a rotation, but 90% of that focus range is for 100 yards and below, leaving us scratching our head and wondering if the base scope design was actually originally intended for air rifles?
In front of the shoulder of the scope, there is 1.4″ of tube length for which to locate the forward scope mounting ring, again, not a lot of room. The objective lens is housed in what appears to be a separate bell housing, making it a two piece scope tube. 44mm is a good diameter and fits the size of the scope and its magnification range well. The entire scope tube is finished in a nice matte black anodizing that looks good.
The reticle in the scope is a MIL based hash reticle that USO calls the Mil Hunting Reticle. We are not sure what makes it a hunting reticle, but it is well setup for tactical use. The vertical reticle only extends 1 MIL above the horizontal reticle and 10 MIL below. There are smaller hashes for each half MIL and larger hashes for each whole MIL. There are also small numbers on each even MIL to prevent the operator from having to count hashes. The same setup is arranged on the horizontal stadia, four to the left and four to the right, but there are no numbers. The reticle is located on the front, or first, focal plane which means it grows and shrinks with the magnification so you never have to worry about what the zoom is set at when using the rifle to MIL a target or while holding off.
Unfortunately, we have to report that with the reticle focused sharp at the center crosshairs, using the fast focus eyepiece, the lower portion of the reticle becomes slightly blurry starting at about the 6 MIL mark and becoming progressively worse until the 10 becomes nearly unreadable. It is also noticeable just looking at the solid thicker part of the crosshairs on the horizontal stadia, they fade toward the edges showing a strong amount of distortion the further from the center of the viewing area. This is a sign of lower quality glass and it is also noticeable with general viewing. We first noticed it when examining the reticle and testing the diopter adjustment.
Overall the scope is very compact and does look pretty good, though very small. But the most important part of the scope is always how it performs and with the flaws in the glass already apparent, we were curious to see how it would hold up on the range. We mounted the scope to our trusty old 700P chambered in .308 using a set of Nightforce 30mm Rings. We tried it with a set of low rings, which would have been high enough for the bell to clear the barrel, but the scope is so short that the bell was hitting the rail itself. The rail is a Warne 20 MOA canted base and the scope hit it even with it mounted a bit further forward than we like. It may have worked okay with a set of medium height rings, but we went with highs just to be sure and you can see in the pictures it set the scope higher than desired.
Out at the range, it was a typical December day in Montana, snow on the ground and the air temp at 38 degrees, which was actually a bit warmer than normal. After a quick bore sight the shooting tests began and with the short scope pushed forward to provide clearance, and with the short eye relief of 3″, or shorter when at max magnification, we had to really crowd forward on the rifle to get the proper sight picture. While not completely natural, it was livable and the shooting tests began. Do be aware that the rifle we tested the scope on was a .308 with a muzzlebrake, so recoil is minimal. With a high powered rifle with stiff recoil, the short eye relief will likely be a problem.
Performing the initial zero and shooting the box showed that the controls actually tracked well, though with light gloves on, the clicks were not very pronounced and barely felt. Also, because the scope tube is so short, it puts the scope rings very close to the shoulder where the knobs are located and this obscures the indicator dot completely on the windage knob and makes it difficult to see on the elevation knob. Something that was a bit annoying and to be made aware of. The locking knobs worked as designed, but as we mentioned, there are no horizontal indicator marks to know how many rotations you have dialed in if you go past one rotation, and there is no zero stop.
The nice and clean reticle design was appreciated in the field and those small numbers along the vertical stadia do help with easy measuring. Overall we liked the reticle and consider its design one of the bright spots of the scope. It is also nice to have the reticle on the first focal plane as well. The small black floating dot at the center of the crosshairs does disappear against dark targets, and it might have been better to not float the dot and to do a traditional crosshair at the center, but it is still functional as is.
The other important shooting test we like to do is to measure the size of the clicks. We fired a first group, measuring a tad under .75 MOA and then dialed in 6 MIL of left and fired the 2nd group. We then dialed 6 MIL of right back in and fired a final round to insure the tracking came back to the original zero. That last round came right back to the original group which again showed good tracking. We then measured the distance between the two groups which measured 22.3″. At 100 yards, the exact distance should be 21.6″ which gave us a margin of error of 3.2%. We allow for some error due to the size of the groups which introduces some error into the test so we consider lower than 5% to be passing and lower than 3% to be good. So the click sizes get a passing grade, though not quite ‘good’. So the internal mechanisms are at least accurate when the scope is new out of the box.
The focus knob was pretty much useless in the field. The amount of focus available on the knob above 100 yards is so minimal that there is really nothing you can do, which means parallax can be a problem. In fact, the scope may as well not have a parallax adjustment (side focus) since chances are the shooter will never really adjust it. We also noticed on the web page that the field of view specs were listed in feet at the low power and in meters at the high power. It is the little things like this that give us concern in regards to the scope and what its intended market really is and the attention to detail, or lack thereof, from the manufacturer.
So did this TS-12X convince us there is hope for Chinese made scopes? No, not really. The design is poor, the details have not been thought out, and we have no idea what the scope’s market really is. The quality of the glass is not great, but then again, the price is Chinese cheap, so we cannot expect much. The problem is, it doesn’t deliver much either and so we would not recommend it for a duty rifle, though it might serve fine on a personal plinker or MSR type rifle, provided you can get it mounted in a usable place. It is also unfortunate that what was once a proudly USA made scope builder has now gone the way of Chinese OEM like other cheaper brands. There are plenty of Chinese importers out there, but there are not very many USA made tactical scope brands.